Secretary-General urges ‘Stepping up for sustainable solutions, robust funding for every crisis’, as Eonomic and Social Council opens Humanitarian Affairs Segment
The Economic and Social Council began its humanitarian affairs segment today, exploring solutions that alleviate human suffering caused by growing hunger and displacement, compounded by the triple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflict.
“The issues confronting the international community are profound,” said Collen V. Kelapile, President of the Economic and Social Council, in his keynote address to the three-day session. “The rise in food insecurity, hunger and famine is deeply worrisome. Also troubling are the unprecedented displacement numbers globally.”
“Yet, the issues facing the humanitarian community do not stop there,” he continued, noting that the world’s most vulnerable are still suffering from the impacts of the pandemic. Women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected and endure setbacks, including gender-based violence, lack of access to education and opportunities to thrive.
He, therefore, appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance and stand in solidarity with those affected by humanitarian emergencies.
Martin Griffiths, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said the scale of today’s mega-crises requires a new approach. Although demands for humanitarian assistance keep growing, aid budgets are not. As such, the international community must shift its tactics, he said, calling for a free flow of food across the planet by making surplus stocks available and removing any blockages of trade in food and fertilizers.
He went on to say that the humanitarian, development and peacemaking communities must work together and “not let institutional distinctions get in the way”. Moreover, the international community must work harder on humanitarian negotiations and access, such as in Ethiopia, Central Sahel, Ukraine and Yemen. The humanitarian sector must be as anticipatory as possible, he said, stressing that preparedness and early action not only protect lives and preserve people’s options but also reduce the financial cost of humanitarian action.
It is way beyond time to allow for a bigger role for local non-governmental organizations, civil society and aid agencies. “They know what is needed to make a real difference. They are our messengers, as well as our advocates and deliverers,” he said, calling on Member States to empower those groups and support them in their efforts and desire to extend their reach.
In a pre-recorded video message, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that funding for the Ukraine humanitarian response has been generous, at 70 per cent of the appeal, but funding for crises elsewhere stands at just 17 per cent. “We need to step up for sustainable solutions and robust funding for every crisis,” he said, urging efforts to make the truce in Yemen last, find a path to peace in Ethiopia, end attacks on civilians in the Sahel, end the war in Ukraine and support pandemic recovery in every country.
To protect humanity’s future, he emphasized, all Governments and corporations must understand that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is not a choice, but an imperative. Developed countries must meet their commitment to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries. Fifty per cent of climate finance must go to adaptation, he said, adding that the humanitarian affairs segment is the place where the world comes together around solutions. “You are here today because you are part of the answer,” he said.
Also in a pre-recorded video message, Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said the humanitarian system is at the pinnacle of the principles and values of the United Nations. Calling for implementing more sustainable solutions, he said that a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is necessary to promote and strengthen local mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change.
The war in Ukraine alone has displaced more than 13 million civilians and compromised global food security, meaning 46 countries are likely to face famine-like conditions. Stressing that every week, humanitarian workers across the world are killed, injured, sexually assaulted, kidnapped or detained as they work to help the world’s most vulnerable people, he stated: “This is unacceptable and it must stop,” and more must be done to protect humanitarians on the frontlines.
Injecting voices of the affected populations, Darío José Mejía Montalvo, the Chair of the twenty-first session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, stressed the need to recognize and guarantee the rights of indigenous people, who live in more than 90 countries, including their rights to land and natural resources. The pandemic has shone a light on the need to improve disaster management, he said, calling for creating emergency protocols tailored to indigenous peoples.
Siale Ilolahia, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, noted the people who least contribute to the climate crisis are the very people that must live with its devastating impact. Pointing out that the global approach is not fit for purpose, she said alternative, traditional and cultural locally-led systems should be empowered, with a transition from a relief and welfare approach to human rights and development.
Hawa Coulibaly, a 17-year-old high school student in central Mali, said children are facing a problem of access to education, a food crisis and health threats. To help them, the United Nations must support Mali in fighting insecurity and putting an end to the violation of children’s rights to guarantee them a better future, she said, expressing hope that she can continue her studies and one day become a journalist.
In other business, the Economic and Social Council began a general discussion under the agenda item “Special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance”.
In the afternoon, the Council held a high-level panel, exploring lessons learned for the humanitarian system from the impact of the pandemic and consider the implications for future action, particularly through the lens of children and women.
The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 June, to hear a second high-level panel, titled “Reaching people in need, supporting humanitarian assistance for all in times of conflict and promoting good practices in the application of international humanitarian law”.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said root causes of humanitarian emergencies should be addressed and resources for humanitarian assistance should be mobilized without any form of discrimination. Implementation of international humanitarian law must be strengthened. In humanitarian emergencies, millions of people face multidimensional poverty and hunger. The international community must demonstrate solidarity in line with the principle of burden and responsibility sharing, he said, noting that humanitarian assistance must conform to resolution 46/182. He called for an investment of $1.5 trillion annually in sustainable infrastructure in the developing countries to recover from the pandemic and transition to environmentally sustainable economies. The United Nations can and must play a leading role in mobilizing this investment, he said, urging developed countries to fully deliver on the long overdue and as yet unrealized goal to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate finance for developing States. The Group stresses the importance of ensuring global and equitable access to safe, timely and effective COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to enhancing local and regional manufacturing through technology transfer and knowledge sharing.
DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the 2022 segment takes place at a pivotal time, with 296 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and protection, and up to 345 million facing acute food insecurity across 82 countries worldwide, with 50 million on the edge of famine in 45 countries. However, humanitarian access is increasingly restricted due to the systematic and continued disregard of international humanitarian law — for example, in Ukraine, Yemen and Ethiopia, with aid workers themselves increasingly under attack. She called for the international community to get its commitments back on track to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, noting the European Union is further committed to supporting concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers. Noting children remain disproportionally affected by armed conflict, including through attacks on maternity wards, children’s hospitals and education facilities, and a high level of sexual violence, she called on all Member States to implement resolution 2601 (2021) to protect schools from attacks. Conflict remains the main driver of hunger, compounded by the impact of climate change, economic downturn and the pandemic.
ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Türkiye), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said much work can be done with respect to anticipatory action in humanitarian and development planning, stressing that international responsibility and burden sharing is indispensable. Humanitarian assistance and protection should be delivered in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, he said, noting the critical role of humanitarian personnel and volunteers to prevent, mitigate and respond to emergencies and humanitarian crises. Pointing out that many humanitarian crises are caused or exacerbated by disasters resulting from more intense and more frequent natural hazards, he said that his group of countries met in May for the Seventh Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to take stock of progress and challenges and highlight good practices to accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework. Emphasizing the disproportionate impact of crises and conflict on women and girls, he called on humanitarian actors to invest in gender equality, women’s empowerment and girls’ education and to take action to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends for Disaster Risk Reduction, said countries experiencing protracted humanitarian crises and conflict are among the most vulnerable to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change. Calling for a more innovative and effective approach to humanitarian assistance that incorporates risk reduction into preparedness, response and recovery, he said the Bali Agenda for Resilience — the outcome document of the 2022 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction — offers several recommendations. First, implementing the Sendai Framework can contribute to reducing humanitarian needs by strengthening national, regional and local capacities for disaster and climate risk management. Second, there is an urgent need to strengthen anticipatory action to disasters. To be most effective, anticipatory action must be risk-informed and must target those who are most at risk or communities most at risk. Third, the Secretary-General’s call to have all people protected by early warning systems within five years can accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework, he said, adding that post-disaster needs assessments must also go beyond damage and loss to include wider socioeconomic impacts.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country is working closely with affected States to alleviate their humanitarian situation and address the plight of affected people. From Myanmar to Haiti, from Ukraine to Afghanistan, his country has provided a helping hand, often in partnership with regional and international organizations. As a leading food producer, it is helping to rectify the ongoing global food insecurity, including through promotion of sustainable agriculture and food systems, as well as secure and resilient supply chains for agricultural and food products. Every effort must be made to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in critical need in accordance with the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, humanity and interdependence, he stressed, calling on all actors to ensure full respect for international humanitarian law. Noting the need for more adequate and predictable funds for humanitarian objectives, he encouraged the use of innovative financing mechanisms and the engagement of non-State actors, including businesses and philanthropic foundations, in that regard.
TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) said 113 million people on his continent need humanitarian aid, of which 40 million are in the Horn of Africa, including his country. Ethiopia, anticipating the continuation of the drought, has intensified food production in areas outside of the drought zone. Building on indigenous practices of resource sharing, the Government created incentives to foster intercommunal cash and non-cash resources sharing as well as distribution of animal feed and other resources. The Government expanded social safety net programmes to cater to populations affected by multilayered causes, including the elderly, persons with disabilities and low-income households in urban areas. Ethiopia has intensive forest, water and soil protection programmes. Its “Green Legacy” programme that is part of the African Green Belt initiative already saw the planting of 18 million tree seedlings, he said. Fruit tree afforestation programmes are underway with the double pronged objectives of ensuring food security and afforestation.
ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) said that while the Ukrainian people bear the brunt of the Russian Federation’s attack, rising food prices are increasing global humanitarian needs, requiring solutions to armed conflict. As civilians must be protected, he urged all parties to comply with their responsibilities under international humanitarian law, and to uphold the right to education, as it protects children. The international community must develop innovative solutions to close the growing gap between needs and resources, and reform the humanitarian system, with complementarity replacing competition. To that end, he cited how improved data and new technology allow for anticipatory action, requiring better communication for involved parties to act ahead of the curve. Calling for more development funding, he expressed support for biannualization of the Economic and Social Council humanitarian resolution.
GUILLERMO ROQUE FERNANDEZ DE SOTO VALDERRAMA (Colombia) said the international community must guarantee safe access and unhindered mobility for humanitarian personnel, the protection of hospitals and medical establishments, and delivery of supplies and other medical equipment. Committed to climate action, his country has set ambitious targets for adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk management. Noting that loss and damage associated to climate change have a high humanitarian and development cost, he said a candid discussion, as well as necessary financial mechanisms and predictable support to address that reality, are needed. His country has contributed assistance to those countries with low rates of vaccination and has established a national COVID-19 vaccine plan that has delivered more than 75 million doses. Given the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on women, his country has been working to roll out measures to ensure economic empowerment, particularly on sectors that employ women primarily, focused on female heads of household. Turning to migrants, he said his country has maintained an unconditional open arms policy for the protection of Venezuelan migrants, adding that it has worked within a legal framework to guarantee access to health care and vaccination for migrants regardless of their migratory status.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), noting the growing humanitarian needs in 2022, said conflicts are imperilling the lives of millions due to the food insecurity they create. Expressing support for the Organization’s efforts, he noted that Egypt cooperates with various United Nations entities. Through its agency for partnerships and development, Egypt is also strengthening international cooperation by building capacity, providing emergency assistance and scholarships to partner countries. It also focuses on early warning and risk reduction. Growth in humanitarian challenges means that it is imperative to rigorously apply international humanitarian law, protect civilians and humanitarian workers, he said, expressing support for efforts to end conflict while strengthening sustainable development. His country hosts the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, which shows the importance it attaches to capacity-building.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the dire humanitarian situation in his region has caused enormous suffering, with the massive influx of Afghan refugees to its neighbouring countries severely exacerbating the tragedy. He underscored the importance of national ownership and leadership in the coordination of humanitarian assistance to ensure effective delivery. Furthermore, legitimate concerns regarding the deviation of humanitarian aid as well as non-humanitarian activities must be met immediately with thorough and independent investigations, while the United Nations must assure that all aid is distributed among all populations in need indiscriminately and without undue interference. Citing unilateral coercive measures as one of the main obstacles hindering international assistance — as well as one of the main sources in creating humanitarian crises — he condemned their imposition by certain States who use them as political leverage in their bilateral relations. Turning to disaster risk reduction, he called for a practical step under United Nations auspices to boost regional cooperation, especially among Iran’s neighbouring countries, in harnessing disasters like sandstorms.
MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ H. ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country is among the largest donors of humanitarian development assistance worldwide. Stressing that access to humanitarian and relief assistance must be guaranteed for all, he said his country’s humanitarian aid and relief centre “presented” humanitarian and relief projects to alleviate the suffering of women and girls in vulnerable communities. An intertwined approach between humanitarian action, development and peace must be coordinated to ensure comprehensive and sustainable development. Also, partnerships with all stakeholders working in the humanitarian field must be promoted to assess and respond to the needs in all sectors and enhance the management of financing provided for development humanitarian assistance.
SERGE DOUGLAS KOSKINEN (Canada) said the world is witnessing the highest number of conflicts since 1945, with millions of people suffering from the violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. The Russian Federation’s unjustifiable attacks against Ukraine have had consequences well beyond their borders, increasing food insecurity, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance and the cost of humanitarian operations. It is imperative to resolutely advocate for respect for international humanitarian law, he said, calling on parties to uphold their obligations, including protection of civilians and civilian objects. Perpetrators must be held to account through prosecutions and through institutions, such as the International Criminal Court, he stressed. It is also important to use limited global resources more effectively and in innovative ways, invest more in anticipatory actions, and ensure greater coordination with development and peacebuilding actors. On climate change, he said that Canada has doubled its climate finance commitment to $5.3 billion over the next five years.
SICEL'MPILO SHANGE-BUTHANE (South Africa), associating herself with the Group of 77, said the pandemic remains an unprecedented challenge to vulnerable populations, stressing health systems and economies, and driving poverty, conflict and food insecurity. Women and girls are disproportionately affected in conflict-affected States, where they are already denied basic rights, excluded from decision-making and subjected to the pandemic of domestic violence. She also noted the climate crisis complicating humanitarian responses, with her country recently experiencing terrible floods killing 400 and leaving 7,000 homeless. The climate crisis impairs human rights and is a threat multiplier, creating new humanitarian needs and exacerbating existing ones, requiring more anticipatory measures and increased use of flexible cash assistance. She noted that South Africa continues to respond to humanitarian appeals across the continent and throughout the world.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said it is time to capitalize on swift technological change for humanitarian protection and assistance. In that regard, her country will promote interaction between the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology. Given the heavy impact of conflict on those who experience it, mental and psychosocial health must be incorporated into the humanitarian response, she stressed, adding that personnel on the ground must also have access to those services. Drawing attention to the situation of children in humanitarian crises, she said the right to high quality education continues to be undermined by the destruction and military use of schools. Greater professionalization of the humanitarian sector, including training with a gender perspective and with sensitivity to the specific needs of children themselves, could benefit every child and adolescent. Also, the participation of local and national stakeholders in any humanitarian response must be fostered and supported, she said, stressing that positive results come about only with the full involvement of local community leaders on the front lines of the response.
OSUGA TAKESHI (Japan) stressed that international humanitarian law must be fully respected, including the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, not least those of humanitarian and medical nature, and that full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access must be safeguarded. In addressing these global crises, regardless of their causes, be it infectious disease, natural hazard or violent conflict, the United Nations system has the comparative advantage in its capacity to deliver on the ground. However, despite the decades-long debate on the humanitarian-development nexus, and the “triple nexus” in more recent years, multiple barriers remain. In the face of ongoing multidimensional crises, the United Nations system must grasp the situation on the ground through a “human security lens” and take actions that nurture the potential of people as “agents of change” and focus on prevention-oriented solutions to the ever-evolving threats to individual human beings.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said his country is committed to protecting people in conflict settings, including the most vulnerable. Full respect to principles of international humanitarian law is key to delivering on the United Nations mandate and protecting those on the ground without discrimination. He stressed that his region continues to face the repercussions of a grave humanitarian crisis caused by the premeditated large-scale military aggression on Nagorno-Karabakh in autumn 2020 amid the outbreak of the pandemic, causing massive casualties, displacement and destruction of civilian infrastructure. Since the beginning of hostilities and in their aftermath, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has come up with proposals for an inter-agency assessment of recovery needs. However, he noted the lack of good faith by one party, Azerbaijan, undermines those efforts, obstructing safe and unhindered United Nations humanitarian assistance access to Nagorno-Karabakh. He called for the United Nations system to employ a human-rights based, people-centred and inclusive approach to humanitarian assistance.
EMIL BEN NAFTALY (Israel) said his country has been at the forefront of global humanitarian aid and disaster response for many years, noting that it is always among the first to send emergency response teams across the world wherever and whenever disaster strikes. Stressing that humanitarian action should combine immediate assistance with long-term development, he said that MASHAV, his country’s agency for international cooperation, plays a large role in its humanitarian activities, alongside Israeli non-governmental organizations, doctors, nurses, search and rescue specialists and engineers who provide immediate assistance and save lives in almost every corner of the globe. In response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, his country opened a field hospital to treat Ukrainian patients, took in over 10,000 refugees and delivered a hundred tons of humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine. Stressing the importance of building local capacity and resilience, he said MASHAV works with other countries to help them combat desertification and drought, build sustainable agriculture and strengthen community resilience.
FABIÁN ODDONE (Argentina) said that humanitarian assistance must be based on multilateralism and respect for the sovereignty of States. Argentina’s humanitarian assistance respects the principles of the international humanitarian and human rights laws. His country’s actions respect the environment, gender and sexual diversity and promote and protect human rights, seeking to eradicate gender-based violence and pay special attention to the most vulnerable groups. He said that Argentina’s humanitarian assistance is inclusive and equitable and is implemented through the body of “white helmets” volunteers, whose actions include emergency care, disaster risk management and implementation of sustainable development. With a history of more than 25 years, the white helmets uphold the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence as essential to all humanitarian action.
Also speaking were the representatives of Pakistan (in its national capacity), El Salvador, Oman, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Venezuela.
Right of Reply
The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the erosion of trust was rooted in the attempt to advance hostile political narratives. Humanitarian actors must not be used for political purposes, she said, with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Armenia’s delegation misused the event to revive territorial claims against her country with no concern for those in need, as that State has still not accepted that its policy of aggression has been put to an end.
The representative of India said Pakistan’s delegate, like a broken record, made unwarranted remarks against his country regarding Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Such comments deserve to be treated with contempt, as the territories were, are and will always be an integral part of India, including those areas under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. He called on that country stop its support for State-sponsored terrorism.
The representative of Pakistan said Jammu and Kashmir is not and has never been part of India’s territory, as multiple United Nations resolutions define it as a disputed territory. Its future should be decided by a free and impartial plebiscite, a decision India accepted. That country is attempting to transform a Muslim majority State into a Hindu majority territory through demographic change, while 200 million Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities face blatant discrimination in India.
The representative of Armenia said that Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the well-prepared and premeditated aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in September to November 2020, and its consequences, pointing out that, more than a year and a half after the cessation of hostilities, Baku continues to hinder the safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to the affected people in Nagorno-Karabakh.
High-Level Panel I
In the afternoon, the Economic and Social Council held a high-level panel discussion, titled “Humanitarian assistance and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic: working together to ensure children and women are not left behind”.
Moderated by Heli Uusikyla, Director, Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the panel featured: Catherine M. Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Arrmanatha Christiawan Nasir, Chair of G20 and Permanent Representative of Indonesia; Ib Petersen, Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Xavier Castellanos, Under Secretary-General, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Janti Soeripto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children US; and Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait.
Ms. UUSIKYLA said while COVID-19 is not the main headline story today, many countries and communities have a long way to go before they fully recover from the multidimensional impact of the pandemic and the unprecedented reversal in poverty reduction. For many people, particularly those in vulnerable situations, and especially women and children, it is far from over. Two and a half years on, COVID-19 vaccinations, which have enabled economies to reopen in wealthy countries, still remain inaccessible in many humanitarian settings. This is an egregious global failure. Thirteen countries with a humanitarian response plan are yet to vaccinate even 10 per cent of their population, leaving them vulnerable to future surges, new variants, illness and excess deaths. Today’s panel offers a platform to explore how the humanitarian community responded, where things could have been done better and what collective measures are needed to prepare for and prevent a future pandemic and its devastating ramifications.
Ms. RUSSELL, emphasizing that the pandemic is not over, said its impacts continue to wreak havoc in the lives of millions of children. “We cannot wait for the end of the pandemic to begin taking stock of — and applying — some of the lessons we have learned over the past two plus years of our joint COVID-19 response,” she said, stressing that global emergencies call for global partnerships, especially among United Nations entities. Spotlighting the joint work of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as well as the importance of the COVAX initiative, she said among the clearest lessons learned has been a deeper understanding of how cascading crises compound the risks to children, “and why we need to step-up our preparedness interventions”. Conflicts, persistent crises and climate change were already taking their toll on children even before COVID-19, with the most vulnerable worst affected. Today, an estimated 100 million more children are living in poverty due to the pandemic — a 10 per cent increase since 2019 — and cases of child marriages and child illiteracy have also grown. Meanwhile, pandemic-related school closures could cause a $17 trillion loss in lifetime earnings for an entire generation of schoolchildren, she warned.
Mr. PETERSEN said during the pandemic the world has witnessed lifesaving sexual and reproductive health services interrupted, gender-based violence skyrocketing, child marriage rising, inequalities deepening, maternal deaths increasing and an increase in the unmet need for modern contraception. “The impacts of each of these converging catastrophes are disproportionately felt by women and girls,” he said, adding that they account for 60 per cent of people who are chronically food insecure globally. The three main lessons learned at UNFPA, which are now being taken forward, include the need to integrate services for sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence into emergency responses; the need to prioritize mental health and psychosocial support to help people deal with stress, grief, loss and disruption; and to listen to communities and ensure accountability to affected populations “in everything we do and all the services we provide”. Pointing out that nearly 40 per cent of UNFPA’s humanitarian funding supports local and national organizations, he stressed that every woman has the right to expect that their family’s safety and well-being are a humanitarian priority.
Mr. NASIR (Indonesia) said his country, in the Pacific Rim of Fire, is geographically prone to disasters, with 139 active volcanoes, and recorded over 1,600 natural hazards from January to May 2022. With 80 per cent of its population being women and children, his Government recognizes they are most affected, and aims to protect them from gender-based and sexual violence during disasters — with special attention to mainstreaming those issues in the COVID-19 programme. The Government also provided $14 billion in social protection allowance to 10 million families, food assistance for 20 million families between April and December 2020, and capital stimulus to mainly women entrepreneurs. The country also provided 60 million students at all levels and 1 million teachers with free Internet data packages, and extended online enrolment. Indonesia did not implement a complete pandemic lockdown, instead setting strict policies on when businesses could open, and worked with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other partners to address the crisis. He noted the country continued to rescue and provide services to Rohingya refugees, administered over 400 million doses of vaccines, and has maintained 5 per cent economic growth — which is better than some developed States.
Mr. CASTELLANOS said that 24 months into the pandemic, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies network reached over 950 million people directly or indirectly through risk communication and community engagement, collecting over 1.7 million feedbacks from communities. The pandemic has taught the important lessons that can be used both to recover from COVID-19 and avert a future health emergency, while also addressing current humanitarian challenges, he said. The first lesson is to invest in the whole-of-society preparedness, readiness, response and recovery approach where local actors lead their crisis response and contribute to global health security priorities. Second, is to give decision-making power to community actors, listen to their concerns, and act based on their needs and concerns. To understand and address context-specific barriers, it is important to work with local organizations, he said. Third, is to leverage the power of partnerships. “We can only become more resilient if we collaborate together but this means working more broadly than the humanitarian, and development sectors,” he said, citing its partnership with the Big 6 on the Global Youth Mobilization project. The private sector, local governments and grassroots communities have a role to play.
Ms. SOERIPTO said that, before 2022, the equivalent of a classroom full of children was killed or injured every day, equal to a Sandy Hook or Uvalde. The conflict in Ukraine has added an average of 2 children killed or injured every day, with nearly 300 killed and over 435 injured, while in Myanmar, in the last year and half, at least 382 children were killed or maimed, with another 250,000 estimated to have been forcibly displaced by fighting. Similarly, in Yemen, the United Nations has verified that more than 10,200 children have been killed or injured. For the first time in decades, child marriage rates are going up instead of down, with large increases in the worst forms of child labour, while hundreds of millions are still out of school due to COVID-19 and other crises. Across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, one person is likely to die every 48 seconds from acute hunger and nearly 3 million children are facing severe malnutrition. She called on the humanitarian community to ensure that all children everywhere are protected from violence, able to access safe, quality education, and able to achieve the highest standard of physical and mental health. “The world spends more on chewing gum than it does on its children,” she stressed. The international community must also end impunity for violations of children’s rights, including denial of humanitarian access, and attacks on schools, hospitals and critical civilian infrastructure. Children are the experts on their own lives and have the right to speak for themselves, she stressed: “Even in such hallowed halls as the United Nations”.
Ms. SHERIF said that instead of a presumed 75 million children and youth experiencing disrupted education, the true figure is 222 million children and adolescents living in armed conflict, climate induced disasters and under pandemic conditions are suffering from disrupted or severely compromised education — with millions more adolescent girls in Afghanistan banned from secondary school. In view of this, the international community must make consistent political and funding decisions, as well as take anticipatory action. As a result of COVID-19, 50 per cent of refugee girls may never return to school — often ending up in early child marriage and pregnancy, trafficking and sexual violence. She noted the organization released $25 million in funding after the pandemic was declared and worked with donor partners to double that, providing education support to 30 million children and youths. “Speed is very important when you have a crisis like the pandemic,” she stressed. The lack of electricity and WiFi in sub-Saharan Africa meant teachers had to travel to students, with the best-case scenario being a radio to listen to lessons, while Lebanese teachers working with Syrian refugees dealt with families having one smartphone for four children. She stressed that the best response is to fund education during crises, as it is an empowering life-saving priority.
Participating in the ensuing interactive dialogue were the representatives of the United States, El Salvador, Thailand, Norway and South Africa. Representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also spoke.
Ms. UUSIKYLA asked about the long-term costs of school closures, and the most urgent measures for systemic change.
Panellists MANUEL FONTAINE (UNICEF), Mr. PETERSEN (UNFPA), Mr. NASIR (Indonesia, Group of 20), Ms. SOERIPTO (Save the Children U.S.), Mr. CASTELLANOS (IFRC) and Ms. SHERIF (Education Cannot Wait) took the floor again in response.
Ms. UUSIKYLA noted the discussion had provided cross-cutting information on coordination and lessons from different contexts that can contribute to best practices — with a view to investing in food, social protection and financial systems that serve the most vulnerable, especially in education, and addressing the digital divide.
Mr. RODRÍGUEZ said it is very clear that the pandemic is still with us, with a direct impact on health care and poverty, requiring investment in pandemic preparedness. The pandemic disproportionally affects the most vulnerable people directly and indirectly, and there must be investment in education — the transformative force for lasting development. Citing the hidden pandemics of exclusion, inequality and sexual violence, he noted that early alert systems help keep diseases from spreading.